Five cops were killed on Thursday night at a Black Lives Matter rally in Dallas, Texas by snipers who targeted officers in an “ambush-style” attack. Seven other cops were shot as were two civilians, according to the Associated Press. One suspect died in a standoff with police, and three other suspects are in police custody.
Like clockwork, some people immediately and unfairly laid blame on the Black Lives Matter movement Thursday night, suggesting that the organization is in some way responsible for the cop killings. That is not only dangerously misguided but also entirely untrue.
Friday morning during a press conference, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said:
The suspect said he was upset about Black Lives Matter. He said he was upset about the recent police shootings. He was upset at white people. He wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.
The suspect stated that we will eventually find the IEDs. The suspect stated he was not affiliated within groups and he stated that he did this alone. The suspect said other things that are part of this investigation so that we can make sure that everyone associated with this tragic event is brought to justice.
This statement will undoubtedly add fuel to the fire, and racist America will insist that the horrid actions of one shooter is reflective of an entire race, or in this case, a movement that aims to protect an entire race. But the only thing that this tragedy proves, once again, is that one angry person with easy access to guns can incite horror. Public mass shootings in this country are overwhelmingly committed by white men, and yet, have you ever heard someone blame the entire white race for one white person’s crimes?
The sniper’s attacks were deliberate and his actions despicable, but they are in no way reflective of or represented by the Black Lives Matter movement. BLM sent a tweet on Thursday night that reinforced this message:
Prior to the shooting, the protest on the streets of Dallas was peaceful and controlled. It was led by protesters who spoke out against the police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. The deaths of these black men, which happened on consecutive days, catalyzed outrage and prompted protests in cities across the country. However, just because the movement aims to end police violence against black lives does NOT mean it encourages violence against police by black people. Black Lives Matter has never, ever insinuated that other lives don’t. And dismissing the movement’s real agenda ignores the torment and terror protesters faced Thursday night, too.
The snipers’ motivations were evidently fueled by hate and their actions are certainly condemned by the movement. Black Lives Matter is a nationwide organization that aims to affirm “black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.” It promotes engagement and empathy through peaceful demonstrations and other powerful tactics that make clear that violence is in no way tolerated.
This message of condemnation against cop killings has been repeated countless times, especially during past isolated shootings of police officers by black civilians. In December 2014, when Ismaaiyl Abdulah Brinsley ― a black man from Maryland ― fatally shot NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos as revenge for Michael Brown and Eric Garner’s deaths, the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement immediately issued a statement that disparaged Brinsley’s actions. They told HuffPost that “an eye for an eye is not our vision of justice.”
Opal Tometi, one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, later wrote a blog for HuffPost in response to the same tragic shooting, setting the record straight and pushing back against the dangerous narrative being shaped around the movement’s motivations.
“This is a challenging moment, but we must maintain the integrity of our message and moral movement,” Tometi wrote. “We still have the moral high ground, and we cannot allow for it to be undermined.”
The shooting in Dallas, which was the deadliest day for police since 9/11, is horrific in every way. Lives were lost and chaos and pain were experienced yet again during an already tragic week. Perhaps what makes the tragedy even more unbearable is that, during the protest, the Dallas Police Department shared pictures on Twitter showing police officers posing with protesters. It was a message from the department expressing solidarity and an understanding of the community’s concerns. DPD has openly welcomed protests and shown a level of engagement with the community in ways that is not always seen among other police departments.
We all mourn the deaths of the officers who were killed on Thursday. Like Sterling and Castile, they did not deserve to die. But, even as we grieve, people should be cautioned not to spread misconceptions about the movement and allege any connections of it to the shooting in Dallas.
Just because BLM denounces police killings of black people doesn’t mean members of the movement don’t care about the unjust death of police. You can (and should) care about black lives and care about cops at the same time.
Let’s be clear: Black Lives Matter is an organization that spreads love, not hate ― and it condemns violence altogether. We should focus our energy on remembering those who have lost their lives to gun violence, both this week and every other. We must destroy vicious ideology that claims the Dallas shooting promotes a “race war” in any way. We must not compromise the integrity of a movement that deserves respect. We must figure out how to use our anger as fuel and identify actionable ways to bring about peace in a world where chaos seems to dominate. We must stand together in solidarity, even (and especially) as we mourn, to help spread unity and bring about peace.
These are tragic times upon us. The only way we’ll heal is by understanding and sharing the honest truth.